Bennett is a role player on Steve Donahue’s Newfoundland and Labrador baseball squad, still looking for its first win after three starts.
Donahue calls Bennett his “safety cushion.” If the coach needs a right-handed stick off the bench, he’ll turn to Bennett. Ditto if he needs a pinch-runner. Bennett can also play any position.
“And,” Donahue said following a tough 3-1 loss to Nova Scotia (full Games results can be found at www.thetelegram.com), “he can play them well.”
This whole role thing is new to Bennett, who during the winter months is a fine hockey player, one of the best in the provincial major midget league.
He’s not used to riding the bench, in other words.
“But this kid oozes character,” Donahue said. “He’s exactly what you look for in a teammate. There’s no sulking. If he’s not starting, he’s the one leading the bench.”
It’s going to be a busy August for Bennett, who is off to the Charlottetown Islanders’ rookie camp following the Summer Games, on the 15th. Then he’ll attend the team’s main camp.
Charlottetown selected Bennett in the 12th round, 216th overall in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft in June. Chances are he could have gone higher, but teams were scared off by his prowess in the classroom this past school year; he finished Grade 10 at Mount Pearl’s O’Donel high with — get this — a 97 overall average.
So it goes without saying that while Bennett is considering the Canadian Hockey League, he’s keeping his options open, and one of them, he hopes, is the NCAA route.
Coming off a fine year in which he finished second to East Coast Blizzard teammate Jack Keough in major midget league scoring (32-21-33-54), Bennett, 17, is off to the United States this season to play prep school hockey.
He’s set to join Kimball Union Academy of the New England Prep School league, a breeding ground for potential U.S. college players.
Kimball Union, located in New Hampshire, is one of the oldest boarding schools in the U.S., and has a top boys’ hockey program.
Bennett is the son of Don Bennett, who won an Allan Cup with his hometown Corner Brook Royals as a junior-aged player back in 1985. The younger Bennett was proactive in getting to the U.S., sending out resumes, if you will, and game tape to a number of different schools.
Impressed, a number offered him a spot for next season.
Of course, his marks at school had as much to do with that as his game on the ice.
“Definitely yes,” he said. “There’s very much an emphasis placed on academics.”
But Bennett will still nonetheless head to Charlottetown’s camp in a couple of weeks’ time. He hasn’t closed the door on major junior hockey, but isn’t interested in playing fourth-line minutes or being a healthy scratch more than he dresses.
The Islanders say they’re interested in him, but then again they all say that.
“I want to keep my eligibility open for NCAA,” he said. “I think prep school, and certainly university, is the better option for me.
“School is of the utmost importance to me.”
That sounds like another Mount Pearl native, Matt Kennedy, who is also very strong academically. Kennedy played NCAA Division I hockey at Arizona State two years ago. Finding the DI schedule — a quasi-pro schedule — was impeding his schoolwork, Kennedy transferred last season to the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston where he played NCAA DIII hockey.
“I work hard at hockey and baseball, but at the same time, I work really hard and study hard to get my work done,” Bennett said.
“It’s hard to balance sports and school. It’s difficult, but I kind of do the best I can. And I’m getting through so far.”